His team down by 22 points to Brown at halftime, Harvard men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker saw nothing but an opportunity for his young squad.
“Coach was just like, ‘This is going to be part of our story. Being down 20 to Brown…at the end of the season, we’ll look back and say this is one of the moments that helped us win the Ivy League,’” sophomore wing Christian Webster said.
While at least three weekends of basketball remain before Amaker’s prediction can come to fruition, the Ivy title hopes for this year’s team—tied for the best start in conference play in school history—managed to avoid a dramatic setback Saturday night.
Engineering the second-largest comeback in league history, Harvard (18-4, 7-1 Ivy) opened the second half on a 48-15 run to secure a relatively comfortable 85-78 win over the Bears (9-13, 2-6) at Lavietes Pavilion.
The victory helped the Crimson remain half a game behind league leader Princeton, which swept its Columbia-Cornell road trip this weekend.
Twenty minutes into Saturday evening’s matchup, it looked as if the Crimson’s good fortune at home—where it has won a program-record 15 straight—had finally run out.
A crowd of 1,377 saw the hosts play sluggishly out of the gate, quickly falling behind by 10 at 14:11 after the Bears hit seven of their first eight shots.
The situation grew more grim ten minutes into the contest when Crimson guard Oliver McNally injured his ankle on a drive to the basket.
The junior co-captain had to be helped off the floor by two teammates and sat out the second half with a protective boot on his left foot.
Its backcourt leader relegated to the bench, Harvard turned it over 12 times in the first half and had defensive troubles inside and out.
Brown proceeded to score on nine of its final 11 possessions of the half, building a lead as large as 24 on 19-of-30 shooting from the field, including 8-of-12 from behind the arc.
“They were just on fire, and sometimes you run into that,” Amaker said. “We haven’t been great defending the three, so we were very concerned with that at the start, and they proved us right.”
But despite all signs pointing toward a Bears upset, Harvard had another ending to its story in mind.
Sophomore Kyle Casey and junior co-captain Keith Wright combined for Harvard’s first 10 points out of intermission, capped by a two-handed slam by Casey off an errant three-pointer by Webster.
“Oliver and myself, we take it upon ourselves to keep the team going and keep us focused,” Casey said. “I think leadership-wise and vocally, I took it upon myself to get the team going,”
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